Author's Note: Set after Eclipse and Breaking Dawn never happened. All recognizable characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.

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"Are you sure you wouldn't be joining us for Christmas?" Esme asked once more from the porch as she watched Edward and Bella load their luggage into the Volvo. While it was nice that they decided they wanted to spend time away from the prying eyes and ears of the family, she was still a little miffed that the family wasn't going to be together for the festivities.

"Don't worry, Esme." Bella hugged the woman she considered her second mother for a long time now. "We should be back in a couple of days, by Christmas Eve. We just want to be alone for a while."

"By going on a road trip? That hardly seems romantic." The older woman chided.

Emmett cut in. "It's the pit stops along the way that's gonna be romantic." He teased with a booming laugh as he wrapped his arms around Rosalie. She playfully slapped them away. Edward was then bombarded with an onslaught of some rather racy images of them copulating and he grimaced.

"Stop that!" He growled as he walked past them to get to the last of their baggage. He could have managed them all at one go but he also knew how Bella liked it when they acted human.

"Oh, just make sure you get home in time." Alice reminded Bella as she gave her one last hug. "I want to see your expression in real life when I hand you your present." The entire family had gathered to say goodbye to them. It wasn't necessary but Esme had insisted.

"Alice! I thought I told you not to buy anything!" Bella blew out an exasperated sigh as Jasper chuckled in the background. As if Alice could be deterred! Bella was getting more comfortable with the notion of receiving gifts but she would never be comfortable with Alice. All of her gifts tend to be extremely extravagant, making her feel wholly inadequate.

"And I didn't listen! You'll love it." Alice assured her with a wink. "Off you go!" She gently pushed Bella out of the porch and to the Volvo where Edward had been waiting patiently. He opened the passenger's door for her and waited for her to put on a seatbelt. Force of habit, he concurred, even though she had no need for them now.

"Have a safe trip!" Carlisle called out to them and Edward responded with a "We will!" as he got into his own seat.

Edward held Bella's hand in her lap as they sped out of the Cullen compound and out of town.

XXX

"This is nice, isn't it?" Edward brushed a strand of hair away from Bella's face as they lay in bed together facing each other. "Away from the family. Away from Emmett."

Bella giggled softly. "Yes, away from Emmett."

They had been driving out of Portland and were heading back to Seattle when a heavy downpour occurred. Edward thought it would be better if they rest for the night and checked into a simple motel instead.

It felt wonderful to be away from their family for a while. They had been the best to Bella when she married into the family but they needed to be alone; needed to be away from Emmett and his innuendos. There were no secrets when it came to Rosalie and his "nightly activities" or any other couple's for that matter, but he didn't have to make sly comments whenever Edward and her came down from their room in the morning. Even Esme was getting a little embarrassed. Bella knew that nothing could escape the family's acute hearing despite them being as quiet as possible but she could have sworn that Emmett got his kicks by eavesdropping on them every night.

They stared at each other for an immeasurable amount of time until Edward got up from the bed and went to their bags in front of the bed. Bella watched him with curiosity; she had no idea what he was up to. He pulled out something from his bag and hid it from her view behind him. He came closer to Bella back onto the bed and produced a nicely wrapped box.

"I want to give you your present early. Ahead of the family and thus, very public gift exchange." He explained at her puzzled expression.

"You took my present from underneath the tree?" She frowned. "You know Esme will get upset when she finds out."

"This is a different one." He winked as he pinched the bridge of her nose in an affectionate manner. "And no, I didn't spend too much money on it." He added before Bella could cut in.

Bella sighed. "You and everyone else never listen. I guess there isn't much I can do about it."

Edward leaned down to kiss her shoulder lightly. "That's right; there isn't." He lifted his head to look straight into his beautiful wife's golden eyes. "Open it. Tell me if you like it."

Bella undid the bow and opened the lid. In the box was a simple blue nightgown. It was not revealing or tantalizing or anything of that sort. Edward never really went for that kind of wear anyway. Perhaps it was from his early century upbringing, preferring if Bella wore nightwear that was a little more chaste. Maybe it was due to all the times when she was still human and he was being self-denying and made sure she covered up every time he spent the night in her room. But he loved Bella just the way she was and it didn't matter what she wore. It always ended up on the floor anyway.

"Do you like it?" He asked, his tone tentative, almost timid. Even after Bella became a vampire, he still could not read her mind. Over time, he had gotten to know her better, her likes and dislikes but it was still tough; to not truly know what was going on in her mind. She never did what he expected of her.

"Yes." Her hand ran through the fabric of the nightgown. It was silk, smooth and cold to the touch; almost like her.

"It reminds me of when you were…human." His voice was quiet now. He didn't know if it would upset Bella when he talked about her past life. How ironic that he used to get so livid when the subject of her being a vampire came up but now, he didn't know if the subject of her being human once would make her unhappy. "I liked that shade of blue on you." He shrugged, in a failed attempt to change the subject.

When he saw that nightgown in the window of the departmental store, it reminded him of a blue blouse she once woreand the beautiful prom dress Alice dolled her up in. He felt oddly pathetic to know that he was still wrapped up in Bella's prior life.

"Does it make you…sad that I'm not human anymore?" Bella placed a gentle hand on his face, cradling it. Her own memories were fading. She couldn't remember the first time she wore that blue blouse and she was already having a hard time recalling the time when she went to prom with Edward.

"Yes…" Edward admitted. "But then I remember that I have you for eternity now and I don't hate myself so much." He closed his eyes as he reveled in her touch.

"No one hates you." She assured him in a soothing voice.

"Your parents do." He smiled sheepishly. Charlie and Renee have been…reasonable enough since their daughter's wedding. They accepted that Bella was going to college at Dartmouth with Edward and that she was very busy and so could not come back to Forks or Phoenix to visit them respectively. But they were getting suspicious. Why couldn't they come to visit her instead? Bella and him kept giving excuses; she was down with a bad cold, she was busy with finals and they were mostly appeased but Edward knew the truth. He knew that Charlie and Renee were resenting him for taking their daughter away from them but he did nothing to challenge that.

He deserved it. He deserved nothing less for condemning Bella, for selfishly staking a claim on her so that he wouldn't be alone for the rest of his pitiful existence.

Bella sighed. "They don't. They're just…" She struggled to find the right word so as to not further discourage her already depressed husband. "They're just disappointed that I won't be spending Christmas with them. I'll call them when we get home. That should pacify them."

An idea suddenly popped into his head. "We could do more than just that." He ventured. "If you want, we could go see them." He saw how her eyes immediately lit up. "Not too long, of course, they'll get upset when you have to leave again but just long enough."

"You think I'm ready?" She inquired eagerly.

"You've managed this far without a human kill. I think that speaks for itself." He beamed. Bella's first year as a newborn had been more or less what was expected of it. She had thirsted for human blood but Carlisle, Edward and the rest of the family instilled in her the discipline to resist it and hunted only for wild game. She was a fast learner and almost 3 years on, she was stronger than even Edward when it came to abstinence from human blood. He had to admit that she was certainly a force to be reckoned with.

"We'll leave again the morning after Christmas. It'll be a little late but I don't think they'll mind." She smiled more to herself. "I don't think Esme would mind so much either. Oh, I'll have to tell Renee and Phil to fly to Forks; I don't think we should leave it to chance if we're in Phoenix." She paused as her mind raced forward. "I'll tell them…I'll tell them I have a surprise for them. They won't suspect too much, will they?" She asked Edward, her face full of child-like excitement, as if she was just told that Alice wouldn't take her shopping anymore for two whole months.

"No, I don't think they will." He agreed with her. He liked to see her so happy. It was times like these when he could convince himself that he wasn't a thoughtless, greedy scoundrel for changing her and that it was possible she was still in love with him and their life together.

Bella prattled on for a moment or two to herself while Edward waited patiently. When she was done, she finally focused on Edward again and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. "See? Everything's turning out fine."

"That's right." His hand on the back of her head prevent her from slipping away as he kissed her on the lips. Unyielding and strong, he held her in place as he burned her lips with his intensity. He rose to his knees on the bed, running his fingers through her hair, sending a different sort of fire through her body.

Bella returned his kisses eagerly and hungrily and before long, she was panting from the lack of oxygen. She had no need of it anymore but old habits died hard. She pulled away and stared into Edward's eyes that had grown dark with arousal.

"Go put on your present. I want to see how you look in it." He breathed onto her skin as he leaned down into her neck, his hand moving up her smooth thigh.

She couldn't sprint into the bathroom fast enough.

XXX

They finally made it back on the road by the afternoon. They had made plans to leave in the morning but they liked Edward's present so much, they decided to stay in a little while more.

They were pulling up into the Cullen compound when they saw that someone, most probably Alice, had decorated the entire house in fairy lights. The entire house looked like something out of a Hallmark card. As usual, she had pulled out all the stops.

"You'd think Alice would hold back a little this year." Bella laughed as she squeezed Edward's right hand, which was in her lap. "Considering how she nearly took out the entire town's electricity last year."

"With Alice, there's no such thing as holding back." He brought Bella's hand to his lips where he planted a soft kiss. He turned to look at her and was rewarded with a breathtaking grin.

"You're home! Finally!" Alice declared as she ran out of the house to meet them as they came out of the Volvo. "I thought you guys were never going to leave that motel."

"Well, I had to give Edward a present too after what he got me." Bella kissed Edward on the cheek as Alice turned away with a grimace.